From Nelspruit a flight to Livingstone Zambia then a short drive through Livingstone and across the Zambezi River bridge to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe where we were met by a new driver and transferred to our lodge near the Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest park, bypassing Victoria Falls for now.
The drive from Victoria Falls to Hwange National Park passes through beautiful grasslands, acacia and teak forested woodlands, there very few cars on the roads mostly people walking or moving herds of cattle and goats. We pass little subsistence farming villages where the people grow squash, melons, peanuts and sorghum.
En route to the lodge we reveled in the unspoiled beauty for which this area is famous. Hwange is comparatively undiscovered, a bush country park, known for its herds of sable antelope, an elegant animal with large, graceful horns.
Our pattern of early breakfasts continued and we set out just at sunrise for a morning game-viewing drive or a bush walk, returning to the lodge for lunch and some leisure time before heading into the bush again for afternoon game viewing.
One morning, just out of camp, we came across this large troop of baboon taking care of their early morning grooming.
Inside the park we came upon a family of lions, two adults and two cubs, spread across the road; the cubs were nursing and by the time we were in position it was all they could do to keep their eyes open, adorable. We just sat and watched them for at least one half-hour – AWESOME! The two adults were very calm and gave no indication that they wanted to move so we turned around and followed another road, leaving them in peace.
We spent one long day in the park and the remainder of our days were spent exploring the preserve around the lodge where one afternoon, returning to camp we spotted a cheetah very near the road, up against a tree marking his territory. As soon as we approached he took to the bush but we followed for a time until he was no longer visible. We were told this was a rare sighting and it was amazing, beautiful cat – power and grace.
Cheetah sighted marking his territory.
A couple of days following our cheetah sighting a young couple from the Cheetah Society came to camp wanting to see the photo I had taken, hoping to identify the cheetah and they were able to from a scar on his lip; he was #18. There are about 80 cheetah in Zimbabwe some who have not been seen for a number of years, either they have moved out the country or been killed, there whereabouts is unknown.
Returning late one evening we ran into an enormous herd of Cape buffalo that spread across the road and down the valley. There were hundreds of them, all ages and sizes. In order to continue we finally had to drive through them as it was getting dark and time to return to the lodge, that was a little tense, these are very large animals and can be very aggressive – we were in an open sided vehicle. Our guide reassured us that the would not charge us because in a large herd they feel safe but beware a lone male, very different story. They will charge and they do not fake charge.
Each day we saw something new and wonderful, it was never the same, perhaps the same animals but in different locations or exhibiting different behaviors, in different numbers it was all amazing, not just the animals but the variety of beautiful birds large and small, birds of prey and song birds.
I never expected to see so many animals, both varieties and numbers, what a privilege to see them to see them in their own habitat.
Sable Sands Lodge
Our hosts and the entire staff at Sable Sands were charming and gracious; I felt like a guest in someone’s home. I have included an article about the couple who are creating a beautiful lodge from what had been abandoned for a number of years and inhabited by baboons. It has been slow going but obviously a labor of love.